Tag Archives: house style

Wise owls: references and citations

References and citations play an important role in many publications, providing evidence to back up an argument or prove a hypothesis, or to encourage the reader to find out more.

This week, the CIEP’s wise owls reflect on references and citations they have known, and the common issues that they come across while working with them.

Hazel Bird

The most glaring issue I tend to come across when I’m editing references and citations is a complete lack of references and citations.

As issues with references go, it’s a pretty big one. But it’s understandable: not all authors have the academic background or training to know how to construct a reference list or even to know that referencing is necessary.

Editors can do a lot to help you work out what needs a reference and how to present your references, but here are a few basic tips that pretty much always apply:

  • If you’ve quoted somebody else’s words, you need a reference.
  • If you talk about a specific idea or concept originated by someone else, or if you discuss their ideas (even if you don’t quote them directly), you need a reference.
  • If you include statistics or results of analyses, you need a reference.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s exact words and present them as if they are your own, even if you provide a reference. You either need to quote them (and provide a reference) or paraphrase their ideas in your own words (and, in almost all cases, still provide a reference).
  • Make the reference as precise as possible – for example, include the page number or the exact URL where you found the quote.
  • If you want to include a quote you found on the internet, you need to check whether the person credited with the quote actually said it. Websites that host collections of quotes are notorious for their inaccuracy. Quote Investigator is a good place to start, but you might need to do some digging.
  • Referencing doesn’t have to be obtrusive: there are all sorts of minimal and even invisible referencing styles that editors can help you implement.

But above all, if in doubt, include a reference!

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin

I don’t often edit books or papers that contain references or citations, but by far the commonest issue I come across is that they have not been properly formatted. Often, it’s a case of not having read the style guide for a journal, or someone has merged the Harvard and Vancouver styles of citation, not understanding that they are very different. The latter can take some untangling. I once had a client whose journal style guide required authors’ first names in the bibliography – there were a dozen pages of citations so I had to send that back with a note after fixing the formatting. There may be fewer rules for a bibliography in a book – here the most common problem I find is duplicate entries or incomplete entries. It can be quite time-consuming to hunt for information such as the publisher’s location or the relevant edition. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle and can be satisfying when you complete it.

Liz Jones

I’m not one of those editors who loves working on references and citations (apparently they do exist), but they are an essential part of our work. One of the best tips I was ever given was to work on the references before the rest of the text. For me, this has two benefits: first, I have an overview of what’s cited, can get a feel for the consistency of the references as a whole, and see what’s missing. Second, this can be a surprisingly time-consuming part of an editing job – so once it’s done, the editing part feels more relaxed (dare I say fun?).

These are some of the most common issues I encounter in references:

  • inconsistency of capitalisation
  • varying elision styles in number ranges
  • inconsistency of author names where they are mentioned more than once
  • problems with the punctuation between elements of a reference.

At copyediting stage, I find the numbering of references is less likely to go awry, as this is built into the working of the Word document, if it’s been done correctly (I realise this is a big if). Sometimes, though, note markers will exist in the text that are not linked to any reference, which can upset the numbering sequence and necessitate an author query. At proofreading stage, one of the main issues I encounter is text markers not matching the numbering of the references in endnotes, so I make sure to check this very carefully, and to double-check it if I need to suggest a change that results in renumbering.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

I spend a lot of my time editing references. Here’s what I see too much of – and something I’ve only ever seen once:

  • Ignoring the house style – and, indeed, all issues of consistent style, including the use of et al.
  • Citing impossible page numbers.
  • Still having ‘forthcoming’ for something that was actually published in 2013.
  • Getting the author names out of sequence in the reference and/or citation (or spelling them four different ways within two paragraphs).
  • Missing out elements – I’ve had references that had the author name and an approximation of the chapter title, and nothing else.
  • Cutting or adding text, but not updating the references list accordingly.
  • Conflating references is another good one – easy for the author to do when there are several references by the same people, or similar-looking people, or similar-looking titles.
  • Using the reference list from an earlier version of the work (especially when theses are repurposed as books), as ‘that’ll be close enough’ (I’m quoting a client) despite the cuts and additions made to the original text. I had to polish up my crystal ball for that one.
  • Missing out a hard return at the end of the reference, so another one hides inside it (one of the many reasons I always edit the references first).
  • And in my last book, instead of using the hanging paragraph setting for the bibliography list – or even using hard returns and tabs, as too many authors do – the author used section breaks to change the margins, so each reference took two sections, one for the full-out line and another for the indented lines. Just imagine how much work that was for more than 500 references – only for me to hoick it all out without a second thought.

The CIEP’s References course helps you to:

  • learn how to deal with references
  • find out what you didn’t know about references and fill any gaps
  • explore unfamiliar reference systems
  • discover ways of referencing less typical sources.

Photo credits: Owl by Joe Green on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Wise owls on editing non-fiction

Non-fiction covers a vast array of topics, including music, psychology, architecture, science, and memoirs, and new editors may find learning and following the conventions of non-fiction daunting. Editors will be asked to work with authors who are experts in their chosen field, and you will need to (tactfully!) help them bring structure to their work as they share their extensive knowledge with their audience.

This month, the SfEP parliament of wise owls share their experience of editing non-fiction, including tips on references and style guides, and working efficiently to meet clients’ needs for consistency within an often limited budget.

Sue LittlefordSue Littleford

Learn to love references, in all their multifarious glory. I get great satisfaction from making a clean and orderly references list from the dog’s breakfast I was handed. I edit a lot of academic tomes in HSS (humanities and social sciences) and have long realised that there are almost as many variations of Harvard as there are authors.

This is why it’s important to get a clear brief from your client. The publishers I work for vary greatly in how closely they want references to adhere to house style. Indeed, some are becoming more relaxed about it over time, often settling for ‘apply author’s style consistently’. If you are to avoid wasting a lot of time, do talk to your client about how much of your effort they want spent on changing the style of references.

One trick I’ve recently adopted is to make my own sample list of references for each of the variants in the job in hand (such as book, chapter, article, website, grey literature and archive – and some of those will have print and online variants, too). This is particularly helpful if I’m working with the short-title system, where a reference will look a little different in the note and in the bibliography, so my own note of the same reference in both presentations is an efficient way of checking I’m applying the correct version of the style in the right place – far easier than flipping through the pages of a style guide.

Liz Jones

It can seem that editing non-fiction is more bound by conventions, formats and rules than fiction. Whether you think that makes the task easier or harder is all down to personal preference! Often a non-fiction client will supply a style sheet, and even if they don’t they might indicate an established style guide that they’d like you to follow. In this way it can be quite different from editing a piece of fiction, which is much more likely to follow its own internal logic. Remember that the author’s voice can be just as distinctive and important to a piece of non-fiction – they’re still telling a story, even if it’s rooted in fact – so there’s a need to be sensitive and to think hard about what to retain as well as what to change. You might require a certain amount of tact to negotiate changes with the author to help their work conform to the required style, without applying rules slavishly and arbitrarily. Finally, non-fiction is often quite clearly structured, and this can be really helpful to the editor. Tweaking text to better fit the structural patterns that run through it can be immensely satisfying, and might make all the difference to a piece of writing – transforming it into a polished and coherent document that’s ready to be sent out into the world.

Abi SaffreyAbi Saffrey

Whenever I tell someone what I do, pretty much the first question they go on to ask is ‘What do you edit? Fiction?’ When I say that I work in non-fiction – generally economics and social policy – there is slight dismay in their faces. Fiction is the glamorous face of publishing, and non-fiction is seen as its frumpy but reliable best friend.

It’s fulfilling when my knowledge overlaps with the content I’m editing, and I can ask informed questions and add substantial value. When it’s a subject area I haven’t worked in before, I’m exhilarated by learning new things and I’m often prompted to go and read something related for pleasure.

Just as with fiction, it is critical to keep the author’s voice (or brand voice) intact and use a delicate touch to enhance the content rather than interfere with a heavy hand. Non-fiction brings with it tables, charts, diagrams and the mighty references list – they may appear intimidating at first sight but all they need is to be handled gently but authoritatively.

Non-fiction has been my bread and butter for over 17 years and I still get excited when a new project pops into my inbox – who knows what joys (and possibly terrors) those documents hold?

Sue BrowningSue Browning

In my experience, non-fiction publishers rarely have generous budgets, so one of the arts of making a decent living out of it is to master the various tools that can make you more efficient. These include the features available in Word, in particular keyboard shortcuts, wildcard Find & Replace and macros. Many of mine are home-grown, but I also plunder Paul Beverley’s magnificent and generous Macros for Editors. It’s also worth exploring the various add-ins you can get. I regard PerfectIt as an essential, and I also have Reference Checker (sadly no longer supported), both of which save a lot of time and help you produce a more consistent result – something that non-fiction publishers tend to be especially concerned about.

So once the mechanical style aspects have been tidied up and the references thrashed into submission, I can get down to the fun part – engaging with the content and the author. Here I particularly love the challenge of phrasing queries collaboratively (‘Perhaps we could…’, ‘Do you think x would be clearer?’) and sometimes catching the odd boo-boo, usually to the author’s heartfelt gratitude. But oh, the angst of querying a missing ‘not’ – have I completely misunderstood? will the author think I’m dumb?

Editing non-fiction can sometimes be challenging and frustrating, but it also brings the pleasure of working with subject experts and contributing to the spread of knowledge in a small but, I would argue, essential way.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

How to customise PerfectIt to check your house style

By Daniel Heuman

PerfectItBuilding customised style sheets in PerfectIt helps make sure that all documents you work on reflect your or your client’s preferences for spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, italics, and other house style choices. There are two ways to build preferences into a PerfectIt style sheet. You can either:

  • Commission Intelligent Editing to prepare the style sheet for you. For government departments, NGOs, and Fortune 500 companies, this is the best way to develop the most comprehensive style sheet possible.
  • Prepare the style sheet yourself. For freelancers and small companies, this lets you put together your own style sheet that is customised to your needs without any additional cost.

To have a style sheet prepared for you, you can get a quote from Intelligent Editing. This article is for people who want to prepare their own style sheet. It guides you through ten short videos that, in less than one hour, will teach you how to prepare your style sheet.

Do I need to customise PerfectIt?

PerfectIt doesn’t need any kind of customisation. You can use it to check consistency without altering any settings. Just run it, click ‘Start’, and the interface guides you through the rest. Most people find that’s all they need, without any customisation. If you haven’t ever used PerfectIt, start with the free trial, which you can download here.

PerfectIt also comes with a number of built-in styles, including European Union, Australian Government, World Health Organization, and United Nations styles. If you’re using those (or if you just want to check UK, US, Canadian, or Australian spelling), you can use the built-in styles without any customisation. Just select the style that you want before you press ‘Start’. You only need to customise PerfectIt if you want it to check your specific house style.

Creating a new style

If you’ve decided that you do want to customise PerfectIt and are ready to learn more, the first thing to do is to add a new style. This video explains how:

You can have one style sheet for every style manual (or client) that you work with. So repeat those steps for every style sheet that you want to create.

Customising settings

When you’ve created a new style sheet, you can edit it in PerfectIt’s style sheet editor. This video looks at the ‘Settings’ tab and shows how to check your preferences for lists, compounds, and headings. For example, you can set PerfectIt to enforce punctuation at the end of a bulleted list or to control title case in headings:

The next video shows how to use the settings for numbers in sentences and Oxford (serial) commas. You can turn Oxford commas off or on, and you can choose whether numbers in sentences should be spelled out or presented in numerals. In addition, it shows how to set a number of style points such as thousand separators and non-breaking spaces in measurements and dates:

Search and replace

You can modify PerfectIt’s tests by adding particular words that PerfectIt should find. In addition, you can choose words or phrases that PerfectIt should suggest as fixes. To see this, go to the ‘Always Find’ tab in PerfectIt’s style sheet editor. Each test within that tab is a little different. This video shows how to add searches to the tests of hyphenation, dashes, accents, and phrases in capitals:

The next video looks at PerfectIt’s different tests of spelling as well as the test of phrases to consider:

The final video on the ‘Always Find’ tab covers the test of comments that are accidentally left in the text and the test of abbreviations that appear in two forms. Then there is a more advanced tip on adding exceptions:

Additional tests

PerfectIt’s style sheet editor has tabs for PerfectIt’s tests of italics, prefixes, and superscripts and subscripts. This video covers all three, and shows how, in addition to switching the settings, you can add additional words/phrases to each test:

If you’re not familiar with wildcard searches in Word, it’s worth reading up on those before watching the next video. Two great sources to look at are Jack Lyon’s Advanced Find and Replace for Microsoft Word (an especially good resource for beginners) and Graham Mayor’s article on Finding and Replacing Characters Using Wildcards (a useful reminder for users who are already familiar with the concepts of wildcard search).

For those who are comfortable with wildcards, this video shows how you can include them in a PerfectIt style sheet:

An even easier way

The videos above explain all of the features in PerfectIt’s style sheet editor. However, if you’re concerned about the time involved in entering all the preferences in your style manual, there is a way to complete the task gradually. And it’s really easy. This video shows how you can amend a style sheet as you work without ever opening up PerfectIt’s style sheet editor:

Sharing styles

The great thing about style sheets is that it only takes one person to prepare them. After that, you can share the style with anyone at your organisation. This video shows how to share your style:

Slow and steady…

If you have spare time to set aside to prepare a style sheet, that’s fantastic. But that’s a luxury that many people don’t have. So what we recommend is to start with an existing style and amend that (as shown in the first video above). Then go through and complete the preferences in the ‘Settings’ tab (the second and third videos). Then stop and just do a few minutes per day after that. Adding to styles incrementally as you work is easy (the ninth video). And if you add just two or three items to a style sheet with each document you check, then you’ll quickly have a style sheet that saves time and improves checking for everyone at your organisation. And it doesn’t cost a penny extra!

Daniel HeumanDaniel Heuman is the Founder and CEO of Intelligent Editing as well as the developer of PerfectIt.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.